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NASA funds proposal to build a telescope on the far side of the moon

The proposed telescope would be a 1km-diameter wire-mesh that can gaze out into the cosmos without being hindered by the Earth's atmosphere.
The proposed telescope would be a 1km-diameter wire-mesh that can gaze out into the cosmos without being hindered by the Earth's atmosphere.
(Image: © Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay)

NASA is funding an early-stage proposal to build a meshed telescope inside a crater on the far side of the moon, according to Vice.

This "dark side" is the face of the moon that is permanently positioned away from Earth, and as such it offers a rare view of the dark cosmos, unhindered by radio interference from humans and our by our planet's thick atmosphere. 

The ultra-long-wavelength radio telescope, would be called the "Lunar Crater Radio Telescope" and would have "tremendous" advantages compared to telescopes on our planet, the idea's founder Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in a proposal

Related: 10 interesting places in the solar system we'd like to visit

NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program is awarding $125,000 for a Phase 1 study to understand the feasibility of such a telescope, Bandyopadhyay told Vice. 

The telescope — designed as a wire mesh — would be deployed into a 2- to 3-mile-wide (3 to 5 kilometers) crater on the moon's far side. The 0.62-mile-diameter (1 km) wire-mesh telescope would be stretched across the crater by NASA's DuAxel Rovers, or wall-climbing robots, according to the proposal summary. 

If built, the "Lunar Crater Radio Telescope" would be the largest filled-aperture radio telescope in the solar system, Bandyopadhyay wrote. A filled-aperture radio telescope is a telescope that uses a single dish to collect data rather than many dishes, according to Vice. 

Because this telescope would be on the far side of the moon, it would avoid radio interference from Earth, satellites and even the sun's radio-noise during the lunar night. It would also let us gaze out into the cosmos without the veil of Earth's atmosphere. 

The atmosphere reflects low-frequency wavelengths of light greater than 32.8 feet (10 meters), essentially blocking them from reaching ground-based telescopes. The telescope "could enable tremendous scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology by observing the early universe in the 10– 50m wavelength band...which has not been explored by humans till-date," Bandyopadhyay wrote. 

Editor's Note: This story was updated on April 14 at 1:50 pm to clarify a statement about the radio-noise from the sun.

The telescope would be deployed in a lunar crater on the far-side.

The telescope would be deployed in a lunar crater on the far-side. (Image credit: Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay)

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • Jim CD
    The article says the telescope array would be unaffected by the sun, but while the same side of the moon always faces the earth, any point on the moon's surfaces faces the sun once each 28-day orbit. I hope the error of logic is on the part of the writer and not NASA. Further, no mention is made of the fact that communication with earth would require one or more relay satellites in permanent lunar orbit. Shoddy thinking or shoddy writing.
    Reply
  • Hayseed
    The article is clear. The moon will shield the scope from the earth, not the sun.

    It's a great idea, should have been done years ago.

    If only we could use 90% of the back side.
    Reply
  • Jim CD
    Editor's Note: This story was updated on April 14 at 1:50 pm to clarify a statement about the radio-noise from the sun. (After my comment.)
    Reply
  • BKC1.0
    First Good Idea Since JFK Speech - NASA Brainstormers Come Up With New Idea!
    Reply
  • Pete
    As the article clearly explains when read properly the telescope will be shielded from the Sun's interference during the lunar night, plus the Chinese already have a relay satellite over that side of the moon, and they might be up for a joint venture to save on costs
    Reply
  • Jim CD
    If read carefully all the way to the end, it is clear that the original article was edited to correct the lack of reference to lunar night. What you read is the edited version, and it seems you missed the editor's note.
    Reply